Control Engineering HMI eNewsletter for December 2001

By Gary Mintchell December 5, 2001

In this issue:

  • Demise predictions premature
  • Reader response to ‘doing engineering’
  • InHand’s Handheld Platform Integrates GPS and Bluetooth
  • XL Reporter launched
  • RSView Supervisory Edition
  • Hitachi to resell Stratus servers
  • Cool products
  • Control Engineering in print
  • SCLE presentations archived for viewing

Demise predictions premature

Rumors abound in this industry, especially rumors about the demise of one company or another. Several rumors are floating about the impending demise of Rockwell Automation ( ) as the market leader in North America. Well, the annual Automation Fair, held this year November 14 – 15 in Atlanta, was packed with interested and inquisitive attendees. In fact, Don Davis, Rockwell ceo, told me that he is convinced that it is picking up market share in the downturn. At the very least, the company showed a lot of life last month.

Entivity ( ) is another company that is sometimes the subject of rumors. The control software company is a merger of Think & Do and Steeplechase Software. I just visited Ann Arbor and chatted with ceo Ken Spenser and coo Pete Durand. It looks like they are well along in integrating the two companies and evolving a focused strategy and marketing effort. In fact, they have had good months lately. Hope that goes for the rest of the industry, as well.

While I was in Ann Arbor, I also visited with Nematron’s ( ) vice president of product management and marketing, Roberta Zald, and sales vice president, Jim King. They are confident that they’ve turned the corner and are focused on growing sales.

While I’m writing this, news reports came out proclaiming that we are in a recession-since March. The same news reports noted that in the last recession, these same genius economists who took 7 months to figure out we are in a recession took 18 months to figure out that one was over. In other words, I’d advise not planning to these reports. It’s already too late! Look at the signs that seem to show that we are now beginning to emerge from this recession. I just wonder how long this emergence will take. Any thoughts? Send e-mail to .

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Reader response to ‘doing engineering’

I received a bunch of responses to my question last month about how much time you get to spend engineering versus being a project manager. Everyone agreed that there is less time for thinking through engineering solutions given the cutbacks that just about every company have committed.

Some talked about maintaining professional motivation and how professionals remain self motivated to do a good job. I’m reminded of when business writer, Dale Dauten ( , interviewed the HR manager of that company made famous by the ceo’s memo to management about the slothful habits of employees leaving at 5 and how the parking lot should be still at least half-full at 6. The manager said that that actually caused little turnover in employees because they love what they are doing and will put up with a moron (my words) to continue doing it. Seems like a lot of control engineers are in the same boat. We love what we do, but sometimes managers take out some of the fun.

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InHand’s Handheld Platform Integrates GPS and Bluetooth

OEMs thinking about designing a custom handheld, wireless display, have you thought about using Bluetooth for short-range applications and adding GPS for location information? InHand Electronics ( ) has added those technologies to its ‘Fingertip’ handheld device platform. End users, have you thought about times when knowing location via GPS would be beneficial? How about tank farms or pipelines?

CEO Andrew Girson told me that while Bluetooth was perhaps ‘over hyped,’ it has a real place in wireless because of the low power draw of its components. Perhaps if it just needs to communicate back to a computer in a truck, then the distance limitations are not a factor. InHand builds sub-1 Watt platforms using the powerful Intel StrongARM CPU. OEMs need only add display, batteries, and a box.

What uses do you see for GPS in a handheld HMI? E-mail me at .

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XL Reporter v 2.1 launched

SyTech’s ( ) XLReporter Version 2.1 includes new functionality to address performance reporting in manufacturing and process applications including vertical markets such as water and wastewater, automotive, biotech, food & beverage, oil, gas, power generation, and power distribution.

XLReporter enables the use of Microsoft Excel technology for automated reporting. Earlier versions focused on the acquisition, formatting and generation of reports. This release includes a real-time and persistent database, able to monitor field-based variables, generating new and valuable aggregate report information.

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RSView Supervisory Edition

Rockwell Software ( ) announced during Automation Fair the RSView Supervisory Edition, the newest component of RSView Enterprise Series, which includes RSView Machine Edition machine-level HMI software and RSView Studio, a PC-based development tool.

The software features:

Distributed Architecture gives users access to multiple servers from multiple clients.

Common Design Environment with RSView Machine Edition called RSView Studio, which supports editing and reusing projects.

Preferred Connectivity integrates seamlessly with Rockwell Automation controllers and software products, which enables the ‘create tag once’ approach, where users can access tags from the controller database and use tags directly on the HMI screen.

It also supports ‘data server redundancy’-if it loses communication from the Rockwell Software RSLinx or OPC data server, it can switch to an alternate data server, ensuring access to critical information.

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Hitachi to resell Stratus servers

Hitachi Ltd. will re-brand and sell Stratus’ ( ) Intel Architecture-based fault tolerant servers. The Hitachi HA8000-ft/100D server -the first in Hitachi’s new line of continuously available servers called the HA8000-ft Series-is a compact, ‘load-and-go’ server for Microsoft Windows 2000 applications.

In a fault-tolerant server design, virtually all single points of failure are eliminated. In the event of a sub-system or component failure, the server continues to operate and the application runs with no interruption, ensuring business continuity.

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Cool products

TouchSystems Corp. ( ), in partnership with eTurboTouch Technology, announced EasyTouch, 17.1-in. touch monitor, at $1349 for single unit pricing. TFT touch LCD features patented eTurboTouch technology, Turbo T6: five-wire, analog resistive touchscreen, enhanced with an EMI (electromagnetic interference) shield for improved durability.

Nematron Corp. ( ) introduced the Delta Series PCI and PC104 Industrial PCs. PC104 is a compact unit with a total depth of less than 4.6-in. Choices include three integral flat panel display sizes (10.4′ VGA, 12.1′ SVGA, or 15.0′ XGA) with touchscreen interface, Intel Celeron or Pentium III processing power, and 3 PCI or 2 PCI and 1 ISA expansion slots (PCI) or one PC/104 expansion slot (PC104). All models have onboard Ethernet and NEMA 4X front panels. Optional Class 1, Division 2 certification for hazardous locations, Stainless Steel front bezels, and screenless versions are also available.

Norstat Inc. ( ) offers the Lauer line of industrial PCs equipped with either 12-in., 15-in., or 18-in. resistive touch screens and alpha-numeric key pad with finger mouse. Connection for an external PS/2 keyboard or a mouse is also provided on certain models. An Intel Celeron 433 MHz processor is standard, upgradable to Intel Pentium III 700 MHz.

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Control Engineering in print

Check out my November article on / with tips on building the best HMI system. Any comments from your experiences would be welcome.

In December I have written on distributed I/O systems. In January I touch on OPC and XML and how these technologies will impact your HMI software solutions.

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SCLE presentations archived for viewing

Don’t miss the SupplyChainLinkExpo web presentations available for viewing until mid-January. Four Control Engineering technology webcasts are included. Access the information, originally presented during October’s SupplyChainLinkExpo, through Control Engineering Online’s webcast page or at .

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